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When Food Aid Becomes A Political Tool…

By now, you have probably heard that North Korea has agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment and permit the IAEA to inspect, which would be the first time that the nuclear watchdog would enter North Korea since 2009. The USA, in return, is promising to deliver 240,000 metric tons of food aid. This is great news, unless you think it is problematic that the USA used the threat of mass starvation to secure cooperation on the nuclear front. “Although the Obama administration called the steps “important, if limited,” they nonetheless signaled that the country’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, is at least willing to engage with the United States, which pledged in exchange to ship tons of food aid to the isolated, impoverished nation. The United States and other nations have been watching closely to see whether Mr. Kim’s rise to power would alter the country’s behavior following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, late last year. North Korea also agreed on a moratorium on launchings of long-range missiles, which have in the past raised military tensions in the region, but joint statements released by the State Department and North Korea’s official news agency omitted direct references to relations with South Korea, which remain tense.” (NYT http://nyti.ms/x8O56C)

Several Killed in Ethnic Riots in Western China

Long simmering ethnic tensions have exploded in the Xinjiang region. “A spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, Dilxat Raxit, said the violence in Yecheng, called Kargilik by Uighurs, erupted because locals could, in his words, “no longer bear China’s systematic repression.” A statement also accused Beijing of denying outlets for peaceful protests.  The Xinjiang region has been plagued in recent years by fighting between the indigenous Uighurs and Han Chinese. The worst of the clashes occurred in 2009, when Uighurs launched attacks against Han Chinese in the regional capital of Urumqi, leaving at least 197 people dead. Eight people were killed in a shoot-out with police in December, during what Beijing described as the rescue of two herdsmen who had been kidnapped by “terrorists.”  The Chinese government has blamed the violence in the resource-rich region on Islamist extremists.  (VOA http://bit.ly/wHuocH)

World Bank: MDG to Halve Poverty Already Met

Thanks to the rapid rise of China, the UN goal of halving poverty by 2015 has already been met, says the World Bank. Although it is not all good news. “Excluding China, however, the number of people in the developing world living in extreme poverty was about the same in 2008 as in 1981 at around 1.1 billion, the World Bank said. “We are now confident that the developing world as a whole has reached the first of the Millennium Goals and reached that goal in 2010 despite the crisis,” said Martin Ravallion, director of the World Bank’s research group and lead author of the report. A breakdown by region, however, shows that just Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia and the Pacific – which includes India and China – achieved the poverty goal. Africa and Latin America are not there yet, the World Bank said. At the current rate, the World Bank estimates that by 2015 there will still be about 1 billion people living in extreme poverty, internationally defined as those living on less than $1.25 a day.” (AlertNet http://bit.ly/wEfysm)

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